I have seen the future of videogames, and it’s streaming 😀
There has been a lot of buzz online about it lately, after the announcement of Google game-streaming service Stadia.
Among the other big players, Apple still seems to be out of the games 😀 as the announced Apple Arcade service will be open since this coming Autumn, and from what we know, it will not be a proper streaming platform, but more likely, something similar to Steam, where games (including exclusive ones) will be sold and played online and offline. Microsoft is also promoting their yet-to come X-Cloud system, loosely based on Xbox hardware, claiming they achieved “console-quality gaming on any device”:
I still think that it feels difficult to enjoy that quality on any screen smaller than 8 inches at least, so even if I love some casual mobile gaming, I would love to see efforts concentrating on bigger screens, from tablets (or better, pc screens…) up to TVs.
This is happening on Playstation Now, which allows games for Playstation 2, 3 and 4 to be streamed and/or played offline on PS 4 consoles and even PCs (no offline games here tough). This is the only service which is officially on the market right now, and it costs 100€ per year (ok, 99,99€ actually) which seems quite a fair price for the game catalogue it offers.
The point here is: who is choosing what is in and out of this catalogue? I think this question will soon become crucial when coming to streaming games. (*)
Ok, thank you for the service but… what can I stream? Several indie developers are already worried by this possibly monopolistic approach: it took a long time to (just some…) indie games to arrive on console online shops, and now they risk to disappear again from the streaming catalogues.
I had the chance to be admitted to Nvidia Geforce Now closed beta program and I have to say that this is where I would put my money now: the platform is running on Pcs (and Macs!) only, and on dedicated Nvidia Shield devices that can be connected to TVs, offering also media-center features, Netflix / Prime video streaming, Google Assistant services etc.
The first killer feature, being a Mac user: I can stream every PC game on my Mac too! This finally means I can play Wolfenstein and The Witcher, and boy am I doing it, as much as I can!
What is even more interesting, is that there is no closed catalogue: Geforce Now is playing every game you own on Steam and Uplay (which basically means Assassin’s Creed franchise, to me), or any other game with an online authentication (including Minecraft and Fortnite, so to say). Better: a lot of them are officially supported, and install/run on Geforce Now servers in a matter of seconds once you synced your Steam account; many more, even if not supported, run flawlessly, with just a bit more time for installing being required every time you open them. Game progress is anyway saved on Steam, so you can start back exactly where you left with no problem.
Actually there is a catalogue of supported games, growing and being updated very often, but you can also fire up your Steam or Battle.net client on Geforce Now and play (almost?) any game you have there. The only negative point, asked continually by the community, is the support for GoG games. The Polish platform introduced their online client Galaxy since quite a while, so a system for checking games ownership is possible even there, but for some reason it is not supported yet, even if some website page claims it will come.
So while people write vaporware articles about vaporware services like XCloud or Stadia, or other people spend 100€ a year on Playstation Now, I am enjoying the future of gaming for free with Nvidia Geforce Now and it feel exceptionally good, with the highest graphic quality and no lagging whatsoever (also thanks to my fiber connection, I have to say). I hope that the pricing system will be modeled after PS Now, as it feels reasonable to spend that money, or just a bit more, for a service this good. Meanwhile, sorry, it’s gaming time now! 😀
Edit: (*) GTA 5 suddenly disappeared from GeForce Now client. Is this a taste of upcoming scenarios? Esclusive games on streaming platforms too, or what else? We should really pay attention here.
Edit 2: GeForce NOW is now public, with an oustanding FREE access for 1 hour playing, or a 5€/month “founders” fee with unlimited time and rtx support. Well done!